By RYAN LUCAS, AP
WARSAW, Poland — Poles on Monday were looking forward to a new government that many hope will improve their image abroad after the pro-EU Civic Platform party beat Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s nationalist conservatives in national elections.
With more than 90 percent of votes in Sunday’s parliamentary ballot counted, results showed Civic Platform beating Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party by nearly 10 percentage points and in a position to form a government with its preferred partner, the moderate Polish Peasants Party.
Civic Platform’s triumph amounted to a bruising verdict on Kaczynski’s two-year crusade to purge former communists from public life and fight for the country’s interests in the European Union with combative methods that marginalized the country in Europe.
Former Polish President Lech Walesa, a staunch critic of Kaczynski and his identical twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, praised his compatriots for their choice.
“We saved our honor,” Walesa said on TVN24 television. “The winning party, I think, will focus on programs to take advantage of as much as possible in the European Union, and at the same time will improve our image.”
The election – which Jaroslaw Kaczynski had forced, two years early, in a failed gamble to strengthen his support after a coalition with two smaller parties collapsed – appeared to be a victory for an EU-friendly course and a more market-friendly approach to an already booming economy.
With 90.8 percent of the vote counted, results showed Civic Platform ahead with 41.6 percent, or 208 seats in the 460-seat lower house of parliament. Law and Justice trailed with 32 percent, or 164 seats.
Civic Platform would have a majority with the Polish Peasants Party, which the results showed winning 8.8 percent – or 35 seats.
Turnout was 53.8 percent, higher than any parliamentary elections since the fall of communism, according to the central electoral committee.
“We are all very happy with the results, with our success,” Bogdan Zdrojewski, the leader of Civic Platform’s parliamentary group, said on TVN24. “However, not long after the first euphoria is the understanding of the great responsibility that stands before us.”
President Lech Kaczynski must now ask Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk to form a government, Zdrojewski said.
Tusk’s party has pledged to spur more economic growth with lower taxes, less bureaucracy and more privatization. In foreign affairs, Tusk wants to repair the strained ties with the EU and keep up a strong friendship with the U.S. – though he does advocate a quick withdrawal of Poland’s 900 troops from Iraq.
Two radical Euro-skeptic parties that for a time served in Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s government – the populist Self-Defense and right-wing League of Polish Families – failed to make it into parliament, their support far below a 5 percent threshold.